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Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Summary of Copenhagen Conference

In the third week of the Our World in Crisis? course we discussed Climate Change with special reference to the Copenhagen conference. Here are the notes that I prepared on Copenhagen.

The major outcome at Copenhagen was the Copenhagen Accord. The text of the accord can be found at this post.

1. What were the key issues under negotiation in Copenhagen?

• Stating importance of climate change
• Setting a long term temperature target
• Indicating methods of reaching target
• Considered how the responsibilities of developed and developing countries would differ
• Considered the status of the Kyoto Protocol
• Deadlines for country statements of mitigation targets
• Funding of developing countries to assist them in mitigation planning and processes


2. What was the outcome of the negotiations?

The meeting:
• Made strong statements about the reality of climate change
“climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time” (Accord point 1)
• Set a temperature target
    --  “To prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, recognizes "the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius”
    --   Mentioned the possibility of revising the long term goal to 1.5 degrees Celsius (Accord point 12.)
    --   Note that the meeting (unfortunately) did not set a parts per million of CO2 target
• Indicated that temperature target would be achieved by cutting CO2 emissions
    --   “We agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science, and as documented by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius” (Accord point 2)
• Indicated methods to reduce emissions
    --   No direct reference to cap and trade emissions trading schemes but possibly an indirect reference: “We decide to pursue various approaches, including opportunities to use markets, to enhance the cost-effectiveness of, and to promote mitigation actions” (Accord point 7)
    --   “We recognize the crucial role of reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation and the need to enhance removals of greenhouse gas emission by forests” (REDD+) (Accord point 6)
    --   ”Developing countries, especially those with low emitting economies should be provided incentives to continue to develop on a low emission pathway.” (Accord point 7)
• Indicated that as responsibility and capability varied between countries then mitigation efforts required will vary between different countries
    --   Developed countries (Annex 1 countries) commit to reducing emissions by committing “ to implement individually or jointly the quantified economy wide emissions targets for 2020” (Accord point 4)
    --   Developed countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol “further strengthen the emission reductions initiated by the Kyoto Protocol. (ASccord point 4)
    --   Developing countries produce plans to slow emission growth (Accord point 5)
    --   The poorest countries (Least Developed countries and Small Island Developing States) participate voluntarily (Accord point 5)
• Indicated that Kyoto Protocol continue to operate as shown in previous dot point
• Gave countries a deadline (31 January 2010) for submitting CO2 mitigation plans
    --   138 countries, including the 27-member EU, are likely to or have engaged with the accord, representing 86.76% of global emissions1 (Accord point 5)
    --   8 countries will not engage with the accord, representing 2.09% of global emissions (http://www.usclimatenetwork.org/policy/copenhagen-accord-commitments)
• Agreed that countries report their mitigation efforts every two years to the U.N. climate change secretariat (accord point 5)
• Developing countries to be assisted in the development of mitigation by considerable funding from developed countries (Accord point 8)
    --   “The collective commitment by developed countries is to provide new and additional resources … approaching USD 30 billion for the period 2010 – 2012”
    --   “developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries” (Accord point 8)
• That a Copenhagen Green Climate Fund be established to help fund the climate mitigation efforts of developing countries. (Accord point 10)
• Established a technology mechanism “to accelerate technology development” (Accord point 11)
• Assessment of the implementation of this accord to be completed by 2015. (Accord point 12)



3. Who were the key stakeholders in the negotiations?

192 countries were involved. Most countries were part of larger groupings such as:
G77 + China – the developing countries, though this group was quite divided with Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) taking a much tougher line than others especially China, India and Brazil.
European Union – the countries of the EU

Umbrella Group - the Group is usually made up of Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the US.

There were many Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), companies and environmental groups in attendance attempting to influence the result.


4. What were the specific obstacles to a more substantial agreement?

COP 15 specific issues.

According to Tim Flannery “it was a big ramshackle festival.”
(source : "After Copenhagen in conversation with Robert Mann" April 2010)

Flannery also noted that:

Danish government was poorly organised. The person who had put it in place, the Danish PM, had gone off to chair NATO and was replaced by Lars Rasmussen who is a domestic politician, inexperienced on the international stage. He chaired the meeting badly.

The way the major elements of the Accord were determined is illustrative of the poor organisation of the meeting:
There was a private meeting of the BASIC countries – China, India, Brazil, and South Africa which Obama “gatecrashed” and it was at that meeting that the fundamental elements of the “Copenhagen Accord” were determined. According to Flannery, whatever success there was at Copenhagen is down to Obama.

G77 + China – the developing nations – has a rotating chair currently held by Sudan. A week before the Sudanese president was expected to come to the meeting Amnesty International called for his arrest for crimes against humanity. Sudanese president did not turn up and his deputy was out to wreck the meeting from the beginning. In a democratic poorly chaired meeting it is easy to wreck things.

Todd Stern the American negotiator managed to annoy the Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao by talking about “transparency”. Some members of the G77 attacked China directly for not agreeing to 1.5 degrees warming. After that Wen did not effectively participate in the negotiations. China had expected to have been praised for their work on climate change were attacked which dismayed them.

Denmark is a small country without much clout in the world so not a good choice to hold the meeting.

An unrealistic expectation that a binding treaty would be agreed to at this meeting had developed, making the end result seem very disappointing.


General issues

The UNFCC process is quite unwieldy, for instance, requiring all members to agree in order for a document to be official UNCCC policy.

Progress through the COP process is incremental, for example, the REDD (Reducing Emissions for Deforestation in Developing Countries) process was started at COP 11 in 2005. Gradual improvements have been negotiated over the intervening years, and the current proposal is significantly better than that previously suggested, but more work is required before a final arrangement is developed.

Reconciling the differences of 192 countries with a wide variety of circumstances and histories is an extremely difficult process.

An international treaty on Climate Change is very complex. It will be very difficult to develop such a treaty – but incremental progress is occurring.


5. What was Australia’s position in Copenhagen?

Australia chaired the Umbrella Group and it is most likely that Australia’s aims were commensurate with the opening statement of the Umbrella Group, given by Louise Hand, Australian Ambassador for Climate Change

In summary:
• Recognising the science
• Two degrees should be the upper limit
• A published emissions target which will substantially reduce our emissions by 2020
• Financing to assist developing countries in mitigation efforts
• Actions to be transparent, reported and reviewed

Since the conference the Australian Government has reaffirmed that it will commit to 5% reduction on 2000 levels by 2020 in the absence of an international treaty and will agree to a 25% cut if a strong treaty is negotiated.

Full Umbrella Group statement is below:

Chair,
This morning I have the privilege to speak on behalf of the Umbrella Group, namely Canada, Iceland, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Norway, Russian Federation, Ukraine, United States and Australia.

Chair,
We the Umbrella Group want a success at Copenhagen. We want a resounding success. We are committed to bold action, we are committed to a strong outcome, and we are committed to maximizing credibility and trust among the citizens of the world. Our vision is simple: we recognise the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not exceed 2 degrees Celsius. We want a global outcome that puts the world on a path to a 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 and peaking emissions as soon as possible. We want all countries to act according to their national ability.

Chair,
The Umbrella Group countries are ready to act to make this vision a reality. First, on mitigation, as part of a post-2012 outcome, every Umbrella Group member is prepared to put on the table an emissions reduction target that will substantially reduce their emissions by 2020. We are also willing to subject these actions to robust measurement, reporting, review, and verification.

Second, in the context of a post-2012 outcome, we are resolved to support quick, substantial, and high-impact financing to assist the most vulnerable developing countries, in particular the least developed countries and vulnerable small island developing states.

The Umbrella Group also supports a substantial increase in financial and investment flows for climate change as part of the final post-2012 outcome, both from public and private funding sources, including the carbon markets. There is an emerging consensus that a core element of the Copenhagen accord should be to mobilize $10 billion a year by 2012 to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable and least developed countries that could be destabilized by the impacts of climate change.

Chair,
We welcome the announcements by many countries, developed and developing, regarding the emission reduction commitments and actions they are preparing to take. It is now time for countries to stand behind their announcements, internationalize their offerings, and craft a comprehensive outcome that sets the world on the path to a low-carbon future. If this is to be environmentally effective, the actions of countries should be transparent, reported, and reviewed internationally. Then we will have an enduring outcome, and the world can assess its progress credibly. Copenhagen can not be a business-as-usual outcome.

Chair,
At Copenhagen, we must agree to a global vision for climate action up to and after 2012. This vision should cover all aspects of the road map that we set in Bali two years ago. Mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology cooperation are all necessary parts of a successful post-2012 outcome. Our collective task for Copenhagen is to forge a political vision that will guide the world’s actions into the future, and to cement this vision into a new legally binding treaty as soon as possible. This vision would be the Copenhagen accord.

Chair,
All governments have a responsibility to combat the threat of climate change. The countries of the Umbrella Group stand ready to play our full and fair part in a Copenhagen accord.

We thank the Danish Government for the great effort it is making to host this conference. But most of all, we welcome and applaud the efforts made by the Danish Prime Minister and his team to lead us, in a bold and courageous way, toward a success at Copenhagen.

Opening statement by Louise Hand, Australian Ambassador for Climate Change and Chair of the Umbrella Group, COP15 on Monday 7 December

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