Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More Tensions in Copenhagen

On the third day of the Copenhagen Summit, one small nation walked out and the coalition of developed nations appears fractured. The challenge: securing a commitment to a legally binding international agreement on emissions reduction as a continuation of Kyoto.

The “spin” most developed nations have placed on Kyoto is that it expires in 2012. In fact it does not. What ends in 2012 is the first phase of the Kyoto protocol. The intention has always been to agree to a second phase with tougher targets, legally binding under international law.

The leaked Danish document, now widely circulated, proposed a very different strategy. In addition to ending Kyoto, national governments would each set their own targets which, when aggregated, would lead to a 30% reduction in C02 emissions by 2020 and an 80% reduction by the developed world by 2050. But the mechanisms are national, not multilateral.

The suggestion that Kyoto be abandoned as the framework for the Copenhagen agreement has left developing nations and small islands fuming. Tuvalu, a small island who claims it is the most vulnerable island in the world to sea level rise, walked out. Other nations have also indicated their displeasure with the draft agreement, developed by a small group of developed nations. For the first time in a series of conferences of the parties – Copenhagen is the fifteenth of these conferences – the small island states and developing nations are asserting themselves publicly and are making firm and clear demands.

China, India and South Africa have all now indicated that they are unwilling to sign on to an internationally binding agreement which sets a challenging target – 350 parts per million of C02 in the atmosphere. They wish to retain their national flexibility to balance growth with emissions reduction. While other targets are expressed as absolute reductions on 1990 C02 levels, China and India are discussing intensity targets – linking the emissions to the growth of the GDP. While many appear to welcome China and India’s move, when Alberta based its strategy on intensity targets it was widely condemned. It is now clear that many in Copenhagen think that the offers made by the US, China, India and South Africa are insufficient and that tougher demands should be made of them.

Linked to the concern over the Kyoto protocol being abandoned are growing concerns over money. The developed nations are said to be offering $10 billion annually for the period 2010 to 2012 and a larger amount after this, possibly up to $100 billion annually. The developing nations see this as insulting. They are seeking between $500 billion and $1 trillion annually to spur growth and facilitate technological change aimed at lowering emissions as growth occurs. They also want to make sure that these funds are new funds - additional to other funds associated with the UN Millennium Development Goals. They are also resisting the idea that these funds should have conditions attached – something suggested in the leaked Danish proposal, made available yesterday.

These kinds of tensions and difficulties are not new or unusual at this stage of a long negotiation. There are many hours of back room working sessions and trade off’s yet to take place at this summit. But what the first three days have revealed are the real difficulties of securing a binding agreement which is legally enforceable. Tensions between rich and poor nations has underdetermined all of the conferences of the parties to date, but real fission between developed countries unusual in such a public event.

Al Gore, in a CNN interview today, made clear that the expectation should be that a political agreement will be reached at Copenhagen and the real binding emissions and money agreement will follow a year from now. If he is right, and he did invent the internet and is a Nobel Prize winner, then this will greatly disappoint most of the delegates who arrived at the summit, which they dubbed Hopenhagen. It will also infuriate the smaller developing nations. We can expect more tension, trouble and debate over the next few days as back room deals start to take shape.

1 comment:

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